Night Owl Mk. II

HomeSite 4.0
Created with Allaire HomeSite 4.0

Last Update: 31 Jan 99

Return to "Religion" essay

Back to Philosophy page

Please feel free to E-mail me with your own comments on this issue or on anything else included in my Philosophy of Life section. Debate is good!

Please report any problems with this page to the Webmaster!


Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized comments
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).

Even a circular scheme of intentional creations implies a "first cause". Therefore, it really doesn't solve any of the problems inherent in a one-universe omnipotent being model. I can't see any way of introducing such a being into a model of creation without doing nothing more than adding one or more unsolvable layers of problems onto that model.
(R) This wasn't intended to argue for an omnipotent being, merely for a closed model in which there could be meaning (of some nature). How does this imply a "first cause"?
(MB) My argument applies in the proposed case of an intentional creation by an omnipotent being. There can certainly be closed universe models that came to be without the intervention of such a being, but I would be at a loss to define what sort of "meaning" such a universe might have.

(R) Can you point to the beginning of a moebius strip?
(MB) Nope. But, I can safely assume that it had a creator.

(R) Additionally, this was also why I thought I was god for a while. It explains all the bad things that go wrong in the universe, doesn't it? After all, if I, or some other person yet created, am the ultimate reason for the existence of the universe, then the universe *has* to have gone the way it has, or I never would have been born! This gets around all the philosophical reasons for the non-existence of an omni-? god. And of course, that god (me) would have, by definition, existed forever (and before the creation of the universe). Without (and even with) multiworld hypothesis, even an "omnipotent" god cannot kill his own unomnipotent self, can he?
(MB) *grin* I guess this just points out the dangers of extrapolating from a dubious initial premise.

This is similar to what happens concerning evolution theory. The theory, of course, has many parts and nearly innumerable mechanics within it. The smaller parts are in an ongoing state of revision and enhancement. Occasionally, a larger block gets an overhaul (as when Punctuated Equilibrium supplanted Darwinian gradualism). But, through all of this the larger, basic idea remains the same.
(R) Yeah, but this isn't what I meant. Evolution came about as a result of a paradigm shift from creationism to darwinism.
(MB) Minor quibble -- Darwin's theory of evolution (actually, "natural selection") produced that paradigm shift. It wasn't the result of such a shift.

(R) The entire foundation changed (over a few years of work). As with most major paradigm shifts (ie. spontaneous generation, ether, phlogiston) it takes time to convince people (ie. flat-earthers).
(MB) Fortunately, the pervasiveness of the Victorian work ethic in the latter half of the 19th century made it much easier to accept Darwin's revolutionary ideas since they posited a progressive process than leads to better and better creatures.

(R) My base belief system has paradigm-shifted, it wasn't until I came up with the idea that I never know what I'm going to believe tomorrow, that it became somewhat stable.
(MB) Interesting. I'd think that stability would come more from at least having some idea what one's beliefs would be tomorrow. That wouldn't preclude any change in those beliefs coming from what new things one learns when tomorrow comes.

(R) Most of scientific advancement comes about as small increase in knowledge that modify the basic belief system. Every once in a while a radically different idea will be created that has even more evidence in support of it, and a paradigm shift will occur.
(MB) Quite right. Edison didn't suddenly invent the light bulb or the phonograph from out of nowhere. His genius was in combining the knowledge of others along with his own insights to produce his inventions. Newton once said something like "if I have seen further, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants".

(R) The change from Gradualism to Punctuated Equilibriun would be midway between these two. (Though most biologists believe both gradualism and punctuated equilibrium occur, the argument being which is most common.)
(MB) Darwinian gradualism assumed that the progression of species has been continuous and unbroken and that it has never been interrupted by catastrophe or other sudden change. PE proposes that it is catastrophe and sudden change that results in the accelerated development and divergence of new taxa. In between those episodes of sudden change, the existing species will exhibit gradualistic development.

(R) Maybe *the* fundamental belief doesn't change (ie. philosophy/science/reason (of which logic is only one member)), though it can sometimes be challenged (ie. solipsism). But this kind of fundamental belief would be equivalent to my fundamental belief (I don't know what I'm going to think tomorrow.) and would be more fundamental than the kinds of beliefs I think you were discussing.
(MB) My fundamental belief is that the reality of the universe is knowable and does not depend on anything supernatural.

Of course, the Schroedinger's cat problem relies upon a lack of observational evidence from which to draw a conclusion about the current state of the system under consideration. An omniscient being could never have a lack of knowledge about *anything*. "God" would always know whether the cat was still a going concern at any and all times.
(R) Right, hadn't thought of that. I don't think god mentions his omniscient though, only some of his followers do in prayer.
(MB) Proverbs 15:3 says "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good." And, of course, there's all that stuff in Revelation where God is said to claim that he is the "Alpha and Omega".

(R) Omnipresence could be explained away by saying just because he's present everywhere, doesn't mean he knows what's going on.
(MB) It would be hard to understand how that could happen. If it did, it would be even harder to understand why such a limited being could be considered to be "perfect" and should be the object of unquestioned worship.

(R) As to my excellent put-down. Thanks! I think you have to use more blatant terms when arguing with some of these theists, as they do not seem to be able to get it without being hit over the head (Though they would say the same thing to us. Both theists and non-theists use computers that were not "prayed" or "believed" into existence, but created using the science and logic that the theists denigrate.).
(MB) Of course, the believers think that God inspired the people who invented the computers. In response to such statements, I normally ask how it is that non-Yahvists and non-believers can invent anything.

An interesting concept, to be sure. If such "fractions of instants" actually existed, one could use basic mathematics to prove that existence was impossible since there would be an infinite number of such fractional instants in the same way that there are an infinite number of fractional values between any two other given numbers. Lucky for us that time and space are quantized, eh?
(R) Such "fractions of instants" could exist. Shifting into one would merely mean shifting out of our own space-time frame (aka universe). Note: this definition does make sense, since our particular space-time does determine the boundaries (boundary conditions) of of universe. Shifting fractionally along the time-coordinate would merely be like changing the z-coordinate on a 2-D x-y coordinate system (ie. the new coords would "disappear" to the parent x-y plane). There can be an infinite number of universes. Purely hypothetically and tongue-in-cheek, this could explain ghosts (ie. inhabitants of a universe which shares our spacial coords, but cross-sections our time coord), might be good for a sci-fi novel, in fact I think it has been used for some.
(MB) Could beings who are dependent upon the laws of physics in their own universe possibly do anything that wouldn't be in accordance with those laws? Shifting into another universe would seem to violate this. If it did happen, then such a being couldn't be said to exist any longer as judged from the reference frame of this universe.

As far as I know, I qualify for membership in any and all of these societies.
(R) Actually, there is one I don't think you qualify for (though you're alot closer than me!), that's the Giga Society (1 in a billion, ~196+ IQ on certain tests). The founder is Paul Cooijmans who got in through a founder's exemption. This is a quote from the web page on it: "Main goal of The Giga Society is to honour the efforts of the very highest scorers, who are of great importance to the development of ultra-high-ceiling tests for mental abilities. A secondary goal is to make members of other IQ-societies realize they're not all that, although they may think they are." It also notes, "Computers who qualify will be admitted as well as humans.".
(MB) *grin* You're right. I wasn't aware of the Giga Society and would not qualify under its basic entrance requirement. Then again, that society has *no* members (other than the exempted founder) and there should only be six people in the world who would even qualify.
    For what it's worth, the highest I've ever scored on a standardized test was 187 (on the Stanford-Binet scale, if I remember right). I achieved a 42 on the Mega Test back in the mid-80s.

I agree with the effect, but I don't think that compassion was the major cause. Simple self-preservation instincts would lead to cooperation with one's fellows to ensure the group's survival whether or not compassion was involved.
(R) Yeah, compassion is a side-effect of natural selection. It was selected for because, in many cases, working with others helps increase both of your fitness'. It is, therefore, not the reason people cooperate, merely how they mentally convince themselves cooperation is inherently good.
(MB) Agreed. Which, of course, counts for just as much (if not more) than any natural process.

While you are unquestionably correct, I think that the previous respondent was attempting to refer to the psychological definition of "mind" rather than the physical brain itself.
(R) So was I. I was merely pointing out that the what the input that makes up the "mind" comes solely through (or at least in greatest part) the brain.
(MB) I'll buy that.

(R) He said, "Within it the laws of physics are void.". You can say the same thing about a computer program, for in a computer program of a 3-D world that didn't include gravity, the law of gravity would be void. This, in no way, means that the computer program *itself* doesn't obey the laws of physics, for it does. The "computer program itself" being the actual bits and their corresponding volts that travel through the computer's workings.
(MB) True again. However, he went on to try to claim that things in reality either exist or are affected by what goes on in the human mind. It's analogous to claiming that something can happen in reality because a computer program can make it happen on your monitor. Really, it's a variation of the ontological argument for God.

Who among them would doubt the wisdom of his actions? After all, isn't God supposed to be "perfect"?
(R) Didn't Lucifer and 1/3 of the angelic hosts leave prior to this? If he's not omni-anything, he might have worried about future defections.
(MB) The only reference in the Bible to "Lucifer" is in Isaiah 14:12. However, the "Lucifer" given in this verse actually means "Day Star", i.e., the planet Venus. The verse itself is referring to the fall of the Babylonian ruler. Nowhere in the Bible is Lucifer equated with Satan or the devil.
    In any case, there is no reference I can find in the Old Testament to any departure of any of God's angels. There are two references in the New Testament to such a thing (2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 1:6), but neither gives a figure of 1/3 for the number. Revelation, of course, talks about angels fighting as allies of Satan, but since this is a future event, there's no evidence to determine when that alliance took place.
    The gist of all this is that if God is "perfect" and all-powerful, how could there have been any such defections?

Why must we endure this? Keep in mind that Job spouts many scathing rebukes of God until God gets tired of hearing it and comes down to explain himself. Even at that, the best that God can do is to wonder how Job can dare dispute God when God is so much greater. For some inexplicable reason, this argument convinces Job and he says he's sorry for expressing any doubts.
(R) Imagine a big, no HUGE, thug with a gun and bat. He says, "I'm right, ain't I." Are you going to argue with him? Or are you just going to say, "Of course you're right, sir", and then get as far away from his notice as possible?
(MB) Of course I would! *grin* However, would this thug then give me more blessings and riches than what I used to possess?

(R) Didn't at least two people ascend directly to heaven (without passing go or collecting $200, aka dying)?
(MB) Yep, Enoch (Genesis 5:25) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11).

If God actually *is* a liar, destroying Adam and Eve would not have proven that he wasn't one. Nor, for that matter, would allowing them to live prove any such thing. If the Fall indicates anything, it's only that God was upset that anybody would want to find out the answer to that question. But, if God is *not* a liar, then eating the fruit would have produced no results and the question would have been answered. If one thinks about it for a bit, one can easily see that the serpent was absolutely right in his statement to Eve. That means that God *is* a liar and that Man is suffering for it. This hardly qualifies as any form of "justice".
(R) Answer: God's a totalitarian dictator who, for some reason, doesn't want to interfere with us in the present world.
(MB) In which case, he would be even less worthy of being worshipped. This would also mean that there is absolutely no point to offering prayers to him.

Consider that if all who oppose him are dead, the only ones who would remain are those who favor him. I figure that this would qualify as "general support".
(R) Isn't this what he did with the flood? How can this kind of argument be used when the bible itself says that god did exactly this (many times at scales smaller than the flood)?
(MB) God may kill all of those who oppose him, but that doesn't mean that some of the survivors may not grow to oppose him in the future. Perhaps, they will do this as a result of witnessing the previous slaughter!

Approximately 2/3 of the world's population does not worship God and don't seem to be any worse off for it.
(R) I noticed a good point made on the Secular Web ( in the last part of the June 1998 feedback. I'll quote it in its entirety (minus email addresses) here:
Just thought I would write to congratulate you again on your wonderful site. The new layout is a pleasure to use and the content excellent as ever. Jeffery Lowder replied to my earlier query about why things are so different between the USA with its fundamentalists, phoney preachers, moral majority, creationists and other assorted opponents of rational progress. I wonder if your e-mail correspondence column would like to carry the following:

Need a holiday from the onslaught of unreason? Visit Holland! I thought my own country (UK) had gone about as far as possible down the path of ridding society of medieval anchronisms like religion until I went to the Netherlands. Active religious involvement stands at 1% of the population (compare 2.5% in the UK). The major church in the capital (the Neukirk) is used as an art gallery and only returned to ceremonial function for the occasional coronation or state funeral. A tour guide on a bus related the fable that "God made the rest of the countries but the Dutch made Holland." But he added "Now that we are atheists we can joke about it." Is this country plagued by all the ills threatened by theists if we lose our faith? Far from it. Holland has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. Street crime is virtually confined to a few areas in the capital where dealing in hard drugs takes place. Dealing in cannabis is not connected with crime since it has been given limited defacto legality. Likewise prostitution is governed by laws. Not a perfect society of course, but not sinking into a morass of corruption and iniquity as predicted by theists and religious prophets of all stripes down the ages. Keep up the struggle Infidels.

Edward Tuddenham
London, III UK - Tuesday, June 02, 1998 at 07:56:25 (MDT)

Internet Infidels' Response:

Edward, I grew up in Holland and can identify with your remarks. After moving to North America, I am constantly amazed at the way Christian morality is imposed on one here. "Admitting" you are an atheist is definitely not done and can have real social consequences. I believe the Dutch have it right: they are truly practical in most matters and are good examples of how you can be moral without being religious. Why did this happen in Holland? In my opinion: (a) The need to historically live together as catholics and protestants without killing one another, leading to necessary tolerance; (b) familiarity with the world (the Dutch are great travellers); and (c) good education. I believe with a bit of luck, we're all headed that way.

Michael Willems
    I bet if the dike breaks, all the religionists are going to come out and say that god was punishing the Dutch for their unbelief. These would be the same religionists who would say that god is only testing their faith when a tornado streams through their town killing the rest of their family.
(MB) 'Nuff said!

Created with Allaire HomeSite 4.0 .......... Last Update: 31 Jan 99

Earthlink Network Home Page